Jyske Bank Boxen will welcome the Danish heroes home in May 2018. Photos: Tony Brøchner / HHOF-IIHF Images
‘Determination trumps technique’
On the ice you have to work hard. It’s the Herning way. And hard work combined with vision and talent has resulted in an impressive number of NHL players.
Frans Nielsen. Frederik Andersen. Oliver Bjorkstrand. Peter Regin. Nicklas Jensen. Five Danish hockey players with more than 1,000 NHL games between them. Add to that a fair few others, who have been drafted by franchises in the best league in the world.
The common denominator aside from hockey and NHL? They all grew up in Herning, the hockey-crazed town in Jutland with fewer than 50,000 inhabitants that will be hosting the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in May 2018.
Unique hockey culture
Herning is comparable to the Swedish town of Örnsköldsvik, home of the legendary Modo Hockey club, which has produced some of the finest Swedish hockey talents ever, including Peter Forsberg, Mats Näslund, the Sedin twins and countless others. All this despite having a population of only around 30,000. It’s safe to say that Örnsköldsvik has a unique hockey culture.
The same can be said about Herning.
“Winning is ingrained in the culture of Herning. Many years of dedicated talent development have meant that Herning has seen several players make it to the NHL. For not to mention all of the Herning players in the top European leagues.”
“Look at Mads Christensen, who has five German championships, or Stefan Lassen, who is doing really well in the Finnish league.”
This praise is coming from Frits Nielsen, who has been an integral part of hockey in Herning since the 1970s, when he was playing for the Herning team that won the town its first Danish championship. Frits Nielsen has maintained a leading role in the Herning hockey community ever since, both as a coach and sports journalist.
It all started with three sticks
Hockey in Herningdates back to the late 1940s, when a local photographer brought back three sticks from the neighbouring town of Silkeborg, where hockey was already being played.
While Herning had to wait until 1966 for its first real hockey rink, the town was already able to celebrate its first national championship in 1973 in front of thousands of fans. The 1973 team would come to play an important role for the generations to come.
“You’re not satisfied with being second in Herning. It might sound like a cliché, but the recipe for success is hard work,” Frits Nielsen explains.
Frits Nielsen was the man responsible for introducing the renowned philosophy of ‘Determination trumps technique’ to the Herning hockey culture.
“‘Determination trumps technique’ means that you have to work harder than your opponent. If you weigh 40 pounds less than the other guy, then you need to get to the puck first. Otherwise you’ll lose the fight. On the ice, nobody can be above the hard work,” says Frits Nielsen when explaining the work ethic that characterizes talent development in Herning.
On that background, it hardly comes as a surprise that the first Danish-born and raised hockey player to make it to the NHL came out of Herning – Frits’s son, Frans Nielsen, who played his first match for the New York Islanders in 2007. Only a few years earlier many would have questioned if a Danish hockey player would ever make it to the NHL. But in Herning, people dream big and put in the work necessary to realize their dreams. Which has since paved the way for other Danes to make it to the NHL and top leagues throughout Europe.
Not only hockey
The Herning work ethic is not exclusive to hockey. Herning is a town that punches above its weight on numerous fronts, perhaps most remarkably in terms of its ability to attract and host major sports events and concerts. Events that seem far too big for the town. But Herning always delivers, as they did when they hosted a stage of the Giro d’Italia in 2012.
It was this combination of talent, determination and hard work that resulted in the construction of Jyske Bank Boxen, which was completed in 2010, at the time the biggest arena in Denmark. The arena has hosted international European handball tournaments and swimming championships as well as attracting top acts such as Lady Gaga, Adele and Bruce Springsteen to the town in the middle of Jutland.
It is therefore rather fitting that despite not being the biggest city in the world – or even in Jutland – Herning is scheduled to host the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
Anyone planning to attend the games in Group B in Jyske Bank Boxen can rest assured that the people of Herning will do everything necessary to ensure that everyone feels welcome and has a first class hockey experience!